Can you identify this spider?
October 30, 2012 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Can you identify this spider? It has been camped outside my front door for two weeks.

I have never seen a spider this big behave this way. Usually around here they are smaller, and they move on quickly. This one is about the size of a quarter, and for the past two weeks it has made its home outside my front door. The web seems to be rebuilt every day or two.

It is located in front of a small doorframe window, so there is some light. It is about eye level. There is also an outdoor lamp immediately beside the web that was on the first night the spider arrived, but I have tried turning off this lamp for a few nights and the spider remains.

Thanks in advance for any help. I'm mostly just curious, but tomorrow night trick-or-treaters will be arriving on my doorstep and I'm wondering whether I should toss the spider into the woods beforehand. It seems a shame to disturb it, but still.
posted by cribcage to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I refuse to look at the picture, because I don't want any spider nightmares tonight, but what you're describing (and the fact that you're in Mass, where I have seen these too) sounds like an orb weaver. Orb weavers are around the size you described and will rebuild their webs in the same place every single night, often near a door. Is it fat and kind of orangey? Orb weaver.
posted by dayintoday at 3:42 PM on October 30, 2012

Yeah, looks like some kind of orb weaver for sure. I'd leave her alone. And here's my favorite song about orb weaver spiders!
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:49 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Orb weaver. Cool dudes. Tell her you know me.
posted by cmoj at 3:51 PM on October 30, 2012

The orb weaver will not hurt any trick-or-treaters. They are not dangerous. I'd be more concerned the trick-or-treaters will hurt the spider.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:53 PM on October 30, 2012

Thanks, all. I'll Google for more info about orb weavers. It seems an odd time of year for a mosquito-catching spider to show up, but I'm impressed it survived the hurricane.

Happy Halloween!
posted by cribcage at 5:11 PM on October 30, 2012

It's definitely an orb weaver, but there are about 3000 different species of them in almost 170 genera, and they have an extremely cosmopolitan distribution. Googling "Orb Weaver Spiders Massachusetts" got me to this page and I think that's your spider right there!

The species is Neoscona arabesca, and as the page says they can be found in your area. They sure look like your picture! I couldn't find too much about their ecology in a casual search, but the folks above are right that your spider is probably a female as most orb weaver males tend to be more free-ranging as they search for lady spiders to mate with. They're also a bit smaller than the females; sometimes you'll find them hanging out on the edges of the females' webs.

The females weave those big, beautiful, fairy-tale webs, they often have a really classic "big round abdomen, small round head" look to them, and many species are comfortable around humans. This is why orb weavers are the first spiders that people tend to think of if they're asked to picture a spider. They are indeed quite harmless, by the way.

Congratulations on such a fine and lovely spider, just in time for Halloween!
posted by Scientist at 5:24 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had one of these orb weavers by my front door from june until recently. She would build a giant web, catch a bunch of stuff, take the web down (eat it, i think) and rebuild the next day. Then one day, no web. She was hunkered in a crevice on the ceiling of my porch. For days, no web. Then i poked her to see if she was dead, and woah! She dropped about 4ft, letting out a strand behind her that drifted in the wind for about 15ft, and sat hovering a few feet above the ground for several hours. Next day, no web. She moved to another crevice for a few days but still no web. Now i can't find her. I miss my orb weaver and her beautiful giant webs. I don't know if the cold snap is making her hibernate or if she's dead or what. Don't scare yours away by poking her.
posted by oomny at 10:06 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Could be a cat-faced spider. I had one a month ago outside my door. They love to be near buildings and the lights that attract their bugs. They're pretty fascinating. It won't jump at anyone, and I'd leave it with a sign perhaps so that nobody will trash her web and squash her.
posted by RedEmma at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2012

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